Killing Juanita by Peter Rees

Killing Juanita is about another murder case from the 1970s that has stuck in my memory.

I became familiar with some of the locations associated with it a decade after the events, when I occasionally visited Teen Challenge, a Christian group working in the Kings Cross area of Sydney.

Juanita Nielsen was last seen alive when she attended a meeting at the Carousel Cabaret to supposedly discuss advertising for one of their events in NOW, the local newspaper she owned. That meeting seems to have been arranged as bait to draw her to her death.

I remember the venue still being there at the time of my visits in the early 1980s. I don’t recall whether it still had the same name but its purpose hadn’t changed much, remaining the home of the Les Girls “all male revue”.

Juanita Nielsen was a prominent campaigner against planned redevelopment along Victoria Street, Kings Cross and became an expensive irritant to powerful people, like businessman Frank Theeman, who were losing a lot of money because of the resistance to their plans. Despite her disappearance being so obviously linked to a particular small group of people, no one was ever seriously investigated for her murder. Instead lesser charges of conspiracy to kidnap, relating to events a few days before her disappearance, led to the imprisonment of bar manager Eddie Trigg, the man she met at the Carousel – the last man known to see her alive.

Peter Rees places Nielsen’s story within its context of organised crime, and police and political corruption. within a similar time frame to the events I’ve referred to recently in The Griffith Wars and Crims in Grass Castles.

In an interesting parallel, the only convictions made in the Donald Mackay murder examined in those two books were also “conspiracy” charges, which included  the man alleged to have killed him. To this day no one has been charged with either of the Mackay or Nielsen murders, and there were indications that investigations into both cases were not a vigorous as they could have been. Of the Nielsen case, Peter Rees notes:

…it is now clear that in the critical early weeks the enquiry was hamstrung from above – with, at least, the knowledge of [NSW Police] Commissioner Fred Hanson – when they took the first steps to explore the Frank Theeman Victoria Street connection.

Frank Theeman had connections to Jim Anderson, the manager of the Carousel nightclub where Juanita Nielsen was last seen. Anderson’s subordinates were those convicted and jailed on “conspiracy to kidnap” charges and they had also been the last known to have been with Nielsen.

Of Jim Anderson, Rees writes:

At the time of Juanita’s murder, few people in Kings Cross were in a more dominant position than Jim Anderson. While to [investigating police] he was a prime suspect in Juanita’s disappearance, they never reached the stage where they contemplated an arrest. The evidence was considered, but there was just not enough there to charge Jim with any offence. Jim’s history shows he has always managed to stay Teflon clean. By various means, he has beaten counterfeiting, receiving and manslaughter charges, as well as suspicion of arson and conspiracy…He has no convictions despite a lifetime among Sydney’s underworld. As Eddie Trigg puts it “Jim was a great one for keeping his hands clean and letting others do the dirty work”.

Many years after the disappearance, a witness came forward claiming to have seen a man with a gun standing over Nielsen’s dead body in one of the club’s storerooms. By the time of that testimony, there had been major changes to the club building so there was no likelihood of any corroborating evidence being found.

The case remains officially unsolved.

The following video gives a highly recommended overview of Nielsen and her murder.

7 thoughts on “Killing Juanita by Peter Rees

    1. I would assume so, but at the time I think there were people in high places who didn’t want any answers to come out.
      Later there wasn’t enough evidence to support the testimony of the witnesses who eventually came forward – and all of those implicated in the actual murder had died by then anyway.

      1. I would think that even if the murderer had died, the person who covered up had committed a crime of their own (not dependent on the other person being punished). The main hang-ups then would, I suppose, be statutes of limitations, lack of full proof (as you mentioned), and lack of funds (and other deterrents to community motivation).

  1. (While there is no statute of limitations on murder itself, in most places if not all, there might be on things like having seen blood on a shirt or the like.)

    1. Hi Marleen,
      I’ve read (and listened to) several things recently that suggest that unqualified trust in the “law” and our legal systems is a misplaced trust.
      Justice isn’t always served. For various reasons mistakes are made, or outcomes are governed more by expediency than by a desire for the truth of a matter.
      Add a generous serve of corruption to the mix (as was evident in 1970s Australia, and probably beyond) and some crimes are either never resolved, or they are dumped onto a convenient scape goat.

      1. Yes. This is true. I considered saying something along that line but wasn’t sure how to word it or go about it. There is a tendency to think the law does work (and it often does), but, both with regard to criminal law and economic justice, things don’t always go properly. This is one reason the health and wealth “gospel” perversion is not morally right (or true).

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